Most of us have fond memories of times past – maybe not all times past, but at least some. We think back to times of laughter and fun, times of simplicity and times of excitement, times which we recall as being less complicated or more restful and peaceful than today. And we smile thinking about them.
Such recollections can be irritating to other hearers from time to time. Do younger generations always want to hear older generations talk about “the good ol’ days”? No, although there should be interest in learning about history and how things used to be. I haven’t had to be a member of too many churches for long before someone inevitably talks about the good ol’ days of that church, perhaps pointing back to a time decades ago when culture and habits were very different. Knowing and sharing history is one thing; wanting to relive it is something else.
While reading my daily devotions a couple of days ago from the book of Ecclesiastes, I was struck by the verse at 7:10, “Say not, ‘Why were the former days better than these?’ For it is not from wisdom that you ask this.” How about that? The writer of that verse about 3,000 years ago was reacting to the same phenomenon of people talking about former days being better. No wonder he also wrote “There is nothing new under the sun” – Ecclesiastes 1:9.
Is it true that there are aspects of the past that I wish were still true? Of course. As I see changes in societal values, movement away from biblical standards, less lifelong closeness geographically and relationally among family members, I wish the trends were different. But it serves no really good and useful purpose to sit and bemoan the fact that the world is different, for it is also remarkable in many ways undreamed of decades ago.
So what should we do? First, we can be thankful for those times past that still bring smiles to our faces. Then, we can acknowledge that the world isn’t going to change course and return to our favorite moment in time just because we wish it might. We can reluctantly acknowledge that our memory is probably very selective, and that those times we recall with fondness were also likely filled with proportionately the same amount and type of hardships and frustration we now experience, just wrapped in different environments and details. We can stop putting off the younger generation who may just be pretty keen on life today (thankfully), cutting back on those references to times past as far superior to today.
Most of all, though, if today isn’t quite good enough for us in some ways, then shouldn’t we devote time and effort to making it what we believe it can be? Isn’t our time better spent making today one that we will look back on in the future with a smile? If today’s experiences don’t bring a smile to your face, then what makes you think they will do so down the road when you reflect back on them, unless you’re counting on that selective memory kicking in?
I was in early high school when Carly Simon released her album Anticipation where the title song repeated the phrase “These are the good old days,” (and, no, the song wasn’t made popular by the much later ketchup commercial). If these aren’t the good ol’ days for me, then it’s largely my fault, and I need to do something about it. The same goes for you.